Diamond industry

Losing its Sparkle

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Europe’s traditional jewelry market is being hit hard by falling gemstone supplies and low-cost rivals in Asia.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Ph. Hahn Söhne is this year celebrating its 130th anniversary.
    • It is based in Germany’s gemstone capital, the small town of Idar-Oberstein which is rich in deposits of quartz, agate and jasper.
    • For years, no new diamond mines have opened anywhere, but demand for the precious stones remains high, especially in Russia and China.
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    Audio

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Tweezers holding diamond, close-up
Diamonds are still the Hahn family's best friend. Source: DigitalVision/Getty

At 76, Dieter Hahn could be considered the bedrock of the German diamond and gemstone industry, and a little old-fashioned. He’s the kind of person who still likes to send faxes, for example, because he can “scribble something on them.”

His son-in-law Christian Klein, 43, is from another time and world. He worked in the automotive industry before joining Ph. Hahn Söhne diamond cutters, and recently modernized warehouse administration at the family firm — “something that was long overdue,” he says.

All in all, the two understand each other, though it takes Annette Klein — daughter of Dieter and wife of Christian — to calm tempers from time to time. At 43, she is the family mediator and knows all three must get along in order to keep their company running.

This year, the firm, based in Idar-Oberstein in the far west of Germany, will celebrate its 130th birthday. It lays claim to being the oldest diamond-cutting operation in Germany and one of the last of its kind. The artisanal enterprise is now led by the fifth generation and, except for a few points of friction, is still doing well.

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